Over 60 calls associated with mental health in total since the lockdown

Fewer calls concerning COVID-19 anxiety so far

Considering that COVID-19 cases are being detected ever more unpredictably in different parts of the country, and there are parts of the population who could be vulnerable to being mentally vulnerable due to the current situation, the JDWNRH rolled out the Mental Health Response Team led by Doctor Chencho Dorji, which operates five National Counseling Hotline Numbers.

He said that so far the Response Team has received a little over 20 calls on the 5 associated numbers that had been provided.

Although, so far calls were mostly said to have been for other reasons like enquiry about COVID-19 tests and medication refills, there have also been calls related to insomnia and withdrawal from alcohol or other drugs.

He stated that so far as of friday there was only one serious case which is an alcohol-dependent man who was withdrawing from alcohol and that no COVID-19 related panic has been reported with the response team.

 Doctor Chencho said, “With regard to psychiatric cases being treated at JDWNRH, the Pharmacy Department is arranging to supply medication to the respective places identified for medication distribution in the zones.”

He added that Patients needing refill of medications should send their prescriptions to the pharmacy through the identified places and pick up the medicines on the next day.

 Doctor Sonam Wangchuk, Psychiatric OPD said that so far they have only received a handful of calls in relation to COVID-19 situation causing panic or anxiety in a person, although he reported that there have been a few such cases which were likely to have arisen due to a history of such incidences for a person.

He said that there have been between 35 to 40 calls until friday evening and wonders if it was an indication of people’s unawareness about where to seek help from at this time or an indicator to the general well-being.

For psychiatric help or medications the process is to call on the Psychiatric OPD number 17841103 or 77858806 and then the person would be required to send in a picture of their prescription to the WhatsApp number or other means if a person does not have the WhatsApp app in their phone. Then, as per the convenience of delivery ambulances or vehicles on keeping in mind the efficient use of mileage, the medications are normally delivered on the next day as per the physician’s prescription.

 He said that so far most of the calls were from previous patients who were already known to have been identified with psychiatric illness and most of them are patients who were already taking medications for illness such as depressions, panic disorder, anxiety,  epilepsy, bipolar schizophrenia, dissociative disorder and others.

He said that these patients had been doing well on medications but had finished the medications.

He added, “Some of the new people among them were people who may have been experiencing alcohol withdrawals symptoms due to the unavailability of alcohol, we have received about 3 to 4 such calls initially.”

Other calls consisted of a parent calling in because the child had been previously under the intoxication of inhalant substances and had been acting abnormally lately, showing signs of psychosis and around 3 calls from people who were using opiate (SP tablets), and among them 2 of them had been calling repeatedly since they were experiencing severe opiate withdrawal symptoms.

He added, “So about only 2 or 3 people had been aggravated due to the COVID-19 situation and they were already known with the psychiatric OPD of having a history of anxiety disorder and panic disorders.”

 Doctor Chencho said that the consulting doctors will decide whether the patient needs admission to hospital or be written off with prescriptions which would then be transferred to the pharmacy department for distribution to their respective zones.

He added, “I understand similar arrangements are being done in other parts of the country until OPD consultations can resume as usual.”

 Telephone Counseling records between 31/03/2020 till 23/12/2020 indicated that a total of 1,192 calls had been received out of which 794 individual calls were made and others were follow up calls.

The calls were mostly made by people between the age of 19 to 29 with 203 calls, followed by people aged between 30 to 40 with 99 calls and 58 calls from people aged above 40, while 11 calls were from minors.

Most calls for the year had been made for psychiatric history and treatment with 286 calls, 219 calls for general information, 149 calls from COVID-19 positive case’s and their roommates, 84 prank calls, 58 seeking information about quarantine facility, 83 cases of alcohol and drug withdrawal, 36 calls regarding information on COVID-19 test, 54 for trauma and PTSD symptoms, 52 calls on past medical history and treatment, 33 on violence, 32 on grief and loss, 24 on seeking information on COVID-19, 27 calls made for interpersonal conflicts, 17 calls on MHRT briefing to Desuung, 16 calls due to stigma and 20 calls on self-harm and suicidal threats.

 The public can consult the following Tele-consultation numbers at the JDWNRH; for General OPD 77119017/77119018, Medical 17841106/77764045, Pediatrics 17841100/77858802, Dermatology 17841101/77858803, Orthopedic 17841102/77858807, Psychiatry 17841103/77858806, Surgery 17841104/77858801,

Gynecology and obstetrics 17841105/77764042, Ear Nose Throat (ENT) 17841107/77764041, Ophthalmology (Eye) 77858804, Physiotherapy 17897233,

Dentistry 77858805/17841108, One Stop Crisis Center (OSCC) 77119024, Community Health 17251396 and Pharmacy at 77119021/77119022.

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